Staple #16: The Slim Dark Jeans
Unlike other Staples such as the suit, the V-neck sweater, or the navy jacket, I don’t need to invest any time in trying to convince men why they should be wearing jeans. 99.9% of men already do and are happy to do so. And, while a pair of jeans is as ubiquitous as it gets when it comes to men and clothing, there is a right way to wear them so they’re still stylish.
We’ve all seen dad jeans like those pictured above. They’re as bad as a pair of baggy cargo shorts and there’s nothing else you can wear that can make bad jeans look good. Even if you nail the fit and coloring of everything else you have on that day, dad jeans look ridiculous. There are a few key rules to follow to make sure your jeans look as good as they can.
Opt for a dark, inky blue. One of the strongest habits men have is wearing jeans when they need to appear more dressed up than they actually are. A good workaround for this is getting your jeans in a dark color. This makes them look more formal and will give you more situations in which you can wear them. It’s still not something you’ll want to have on at the opera or a board meeting, but darker jeans are acceptable in many business-casual environments and other events like dinner parties or nights out on the prowl.
Another benefit to darker jeans is that they’re not inappropriate in a casual environment either. I can have mine on for a session at the skatepark and not look like I’m the overdressed idiot who doesn’t understand a casual situation.
Wear them in a slim fit. This rule applies regardless of your size. The days of Jnco’s and boot-cut jeans being good alternatives are dead and gone – and good riddance. Slim doesn’t mean emo-I-raided-my-sister’s-closet skinny. It means they’re narrower in the knees than they are in the thighs and they’re narrower at the cuffs than they are in the knees. A good taper will flatter a man of any build because our legs naturally taper and clothing should show off the man who wears it. Those who are extremely skinny can get away with skinnier jeans and those who are bigger will want more space, but slim cuts are the only option.
They should feel pretty snug when you buy them because they’re going to break in and fit much better after some good use.
Make sure they’re not too long. A lot of this depends on how you like to wear your jeans. If you’re more blue-collar or rockabilly and like having them cuffed all the time, then buy them longer and get a proper roll so it doesn’t look like you’re wearing floods. If you don’t like them rolled, make sure they’re short enough that they don’t start to pool around your ankles. Of all the mistakes I’ve seen with clients in the past, the most common is buying jeans that are too long. They will visually shorten your legs and throw off your proportions.
Don’t wash them as often as you think. A good pair of jeans is kind of like a baseball glove or snowboarding boots – they’re made to adapt to and shape themselves around the man wearing them. If you wash your jeans after each wear they won’t ever be able to fit you as well as they could. If you spill anything that could stain or they start to smell, it’s a good time to throw them in the wash (although some die-hard denim heads will just put them in the freezer to kill the bacteria and keep wearing them after). If you bought your pants in the right size, they’ll be a bit uncomfortable after a wash because they’ll feel too tight. Wear them in for a few days and you’ll be good again.
Dress them down. Hiking, working on the car, football with the boys – I don’t really need to tell you to wear them in casual situations. Just throw them on and enjoy them.
They’re perfect for a High/Low look. Pair them up with a tweed blazer, streamlined vest, button-up shirt, and dress shoes for a great balance between work and play. An outfit like this will make you the best-dressed man in any situation that doesn’t require a tie without looking like a dandy who can’t or won’t get dirty.
Pro Tip: Wear them with dress shoes and thick, wool socks for a look that is dressed up but still very fall appropriate.
Avoid manufactured distressing, sequins, and carpenter pants. Everything about these jeans should be simple. They’re a background for the rest of your outfit and should be so simple that you could wear the same pair for two weeks straight without anyone noticing you haven’t changed them.
A lot of men like distressed jeans and I can certainly understand why. However, it’s important to know that your jeans should be distressed by you. I remember making fun of kids who would rub their skate decks on the curb to make it look like they were die-hards who would grind any ledge available, when really they couldn’t even ollie and just wanted to look the part. Same goes for pre-distressed jeans. If you don’t want your pants to look brand new, put in the time and work yourself. Wear them doing things that actually distress them. The great thing about natural distressing is that it fits what you do. I have a pair of Levi’s that have a perfectly worn mark in the right, rear pocket from where my wallet sits all the time. There’s no way to pre-distress that without it looking ridiculous.
I suggest by a couple pair because these will be a Staple in both regards – they wear with almost anything and you will wear them all the time. I’m happy with Levi’s that you can pick up for $30 but you can spend more on higher-quality, selvedge jeans from makers like A.P.C. or Naked and Famous as well.
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